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Mystery shopping goes digital

Kayla Lidstone's picture

 Gone are the days of in-store customer satisfaction comment cards. The Internet provides people with the option to give immediate feedback on goods and services they consume and some are even getting paid to do so through mystery shopping.

The retail situation
It has become increasingly difficult for retailers to hide from their customers’ demands. Many companies have a presence on social networking sites (SNS) – most on Facebook and many on Twitter. These tools allow us to share and collect data on the goods and services we have or intend on experiencing. We can communicate with others on the service we received as well as the companies who have provided us with this service.
With so many people connected to the Internet, it has been made easy to make others aware of good or bad services and utilities online through SNS. Some of the larger franchises have even taken it upon themselves to facilitate forums for increased customer satisfaction. 
Customers are provided with easy access to online surveys of the service and complaints can be made directly to the companies themselves.
A lot of the companies welcome the feedback, be it positive or negative. They want to increase service quality in order to make more money and acknowledging a customer’s comments makes the customer that much more satisfied that their voice is being heard. Take Pick and Pay for example. The popular supermarket has a twitter account making it easy to voice specific complaints directly to the source of the problem. I didn’t actually expect them to reply when I was looking for a specific ingredient in Grahamstown, they responded to my tweet. 
I think this attitude grants an A for effort that a big time corporation had the time to check their stock for little old me, a low-income student in little old Grahamstown.
Here is a lesson to all retailers: you can’t hide from the forums, might as well embrace ‘em.
Mystery shopping
How great would it be to visit a restaurant, have a full course meal free of charge and all you had to do was provide a little feedback to the companies that hired you? A term that is also referred to as silent or secret shopping, these shoppers appear to be the average consumer. But they’re not.
The difference is that this shopper is secretly taking notes on their shopping experience and is paid to give extensive feedback to the companies that hire them.
Companies similar to Pick ‘n Pay are constantly creating new ways to make their customers happy. For instance, Woolworths sends out an email to their hired mystery shoppers after their shopping experience asking how the service was. This helps the company gather data on what their customers want and don’t want and then can take action after further data analysis.
An issue with mystery shopping was always the fact that there was quite a bit of admin involved. Costs are higher, the time it takes is longer, and training of the mystery shopper is was standard.
Secret Agent: An SA app that pays
It seems that mystery shopping has now moved into the app World – making mystery much easier and much more efficient.
This is most probably one of the coolest South African apps that can be downloaded onto your smartphone. Secret Agent creates the perfect opportunity for consumers to earn money while giving feedback on companies in their area.
It operates almost as a game where the interface involves a list of missions that the consumer must undergo in order to earn different amounts of money. By using your phone’s GPS, it creates these missions for you to do around your community – from things as simple as taking pictures of products in the store to answering basic multiple choice questions to general customer feedback.
It’s a revolutionary way for companies that have branches all over the country to be provided with quick feedback in a neat format. Anyone can download the app so consumers don’t have to undergo the extensive training that normal mystery shoppers would. There are already thousands of secret agents registered for the app giving people a commission and taking a commission from companies that choose to use it as a data collection tool. Some of the companies already working with Secret Agent are those like Virgin Active and Hyundai.
Even though the amounts aren’t large, they are still a fun way to make some extra cash on the side (especially great for a student on a budget – like me) Free to download, easy to use, Secret Agent gets a thumbs up from me.


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